Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, right, puts his hand to his head during the English Premier League soccer match against West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium, London Sunday August 9, 2015. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation.
It was a dream start for new West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, who replaced Sam Allardyce in the close-season, and the ideal response to criticism of his decision to field a weakened team in their Europa League defeat against Astra Giurgiu on Thursday.
Just before halftime he came flying out to punch Dimitri Payet’s free kick but was beaten to the ball by the head of Kouyate.
The Hammers handed 16-year-old Reece Oxford, the club’s youngest ever player, a surprise first league start, and he showed composure that belied his tender years with an accomplished display at the base of a midfield diamond.
He naively contributed to West Ham’s second goal but this season could still prove his making capitalising on the absence of Alexis Sanchez to remain in Arsenal’s starting XI, particularly with Euro 2016 at the season’s end.
After finishing the previous season third in the Premier League, many are expecting Arsenal to make a serious title run this year.
“I can only repeat what I’ve said: if an exceptional solution turns up, we will do it”, he said. “I can’t see many individual convincing performances today so it’s hard to single someone out”.
Liverpool also faced a big game of sorts, taking on a Stoke side that had humiliated the Reds in their final game of last season – inflicting a 6-1 defeat on Brendan Rodgers’ team.
Arsenal were in the ascendancy as Aaron Ramsey’s strike from just outside the penalty area looped up and struck the crossbar after deflecting off Aaron Cresswell just after the half-hour mark.
He told Sky Sports: “We are all very pleased and it is great start for us”.
Having spent £10million to recruit Cech from Chelsea this summer, there was a belief that Arsenal could again challenge for the title because defensive lapses would no longer be a serious problem.
With an hour on the clock, West Ham had registered two goals from only two shots on target.
Kouyate’s goal. Here come the “Ospina is better” brigade. I knew that if the delivery was good, we would be in trouble before the free-kick was taken.
It was West Ham who were in front three minutes before half-time, though, as the usually commanding Cech had a moment to forget.